RW253 - 1997 Problems

This week, Dan and John talk about:

  • Trying to set up two factor authentication on Facebook (Internet and Social Media)
  • John still using a laptop from mid-2015 and not wanting to upgrade, not being excited about new gadgets (Technology)
  • John lurking on Twitter again (Internet and Social Media)
  • People getting rich without really doing anything, companies not yet knowing what their product is (Money)
  • John crossing a line where he is no longer connected to things (Attitude and Opinion])
  • Anthropologists finding that pre-industrial tribes mostly did nothing (Factoids)

Bonus-content for Patreon supporters:

  • People having trouble with the Patreon feed (Podcasting)
  • How Dan and John use email (Technology)
  • John’s daughter documenting the ceramic knobs in their vacation house (Daughter)
  • Cutting all the Kurt Cobain names out of Rolling Stone Magazine (Early Days)
  • Accepting payments via Zelle (Podcasting)
  • How to get beyond the idea that dating is the next step in life? (Relationships)

The show title refers to John having trouble setting up two-factor authentication on Facebook and wondering if he is the only one who has this problem that seems like they should have solved in 1997 already.

John can barely hear Dan, like he is talking through the computer and not through the box.

Raw notes
The segments below are raw notes that have not been edited for language, structure, references, or readability. Please do not quote these texts directly without applying your own editing first! These notes were not planned to be released in this form, but time constraints have caused a shift in priorities and have delayed editing draft-quality versions to a later point.

Trying to set up two factor authentication on Facebook (RW253)

Dan is not on Facebook, he has an account for the websites that forced him to use Facebook, but he doesn’t follow anyone and no-one knows it is there. John doesn’t go there anymore wither except that there are people that mail him there, people who actually have his phone number and address, but they still send him messages there and he wouldn't hear from them other ways, so he goes there once every ten days and reads his mail.

Three weeks ago Facebook said: ”You don't have two factor authentication and for your own safety we are locking you out of your account until you set up two factor authentication!”, which is the latest in a long line of security theater measures that just makes everybody feel better. ”Take my Facebook account, Russian bots!”

They offered three options, one of them is to use an outside Authenticator service like Google Authenticator or some other Authenticator, but John doesn't want to download a service. The second option was even more convoluted, but the third option, the normal one, the logical one, is that they will send you a text on your phone as the second factor. Facebook auto-loaded his phone number although he is not sure he ever gave it to them, but no authenticating text arrived. He did it again, nothing came, he did it again, and it said: ”You have to wait two minutes!” He did it again, nothing came, so John bagged out.

Ten days went by, he went through the whole thing again, it came to nothing and he bagged out. This has probably been going on for a month and a half. He went in and tried to get to the bottom of it. He went on a Lemmiwinks journey where he kept arriving back at the same place, and the best he can come up with is that at some point he toggled a switch inside of Facebook saying that they couldn't text him things and he did not want to receive messages from Facebook on his phone, for obvious reasons, but now he cannot get into Facebook to untoggle it and to let them send him the code.

It feels like a 1997 problem, a year that didn't exist because: They haven't worked out this bug? Aren't there millions of users of this program? Surely John is not the only one. Isn't there somewhere down in San Jose a warehouse that goes alongside the freeway that is 40 miles long, full of 25 year olds, sitting at open plan offices, whose sole job it is to get to the bottom of this kind of glitch? They are all getting paid $280,000 a year, right out of college, but that doesn't cover their rent and they can't afford to buy. It sounds like a lot of money, but they are actually going into debt every year.

John still using a laptop from mid-2015 and not wanting to upgrade, not being excited about new gadgets (RW253)

John has a laptop from mid 2014, and a lot of times with these consumer devices he has not gotten the money out of it. A lot of times you buy a thing and it is like: ”Really? That was really expensive and it only lasted a few years!”, but he is starting to think he got his money out of this laptop. It is throwing up stuff, it is telling him it wants to upgrade the OS again, but one more upgrade and John will brick it forever, and it still works for everything he needs it to do, he is not a gamer of course, he has yet to calculate the trajectory of a rocket.

You used to be able to do that work on the back of a Matchbook cover if you were good at math. They used to have the Speedmaster watch that people took up into space because they could do calculations with it. A wristwatch, a pencil, maybe a China pen, and a little something to write on and they could calculate how to reenter the Earth's atmosphere safely. Steve McQueen could wear one of those watches underwater in a car.

John is worried that he is not excited about buying a new consumer product, but he is starting to feel like this thing is throwing up a lot of problems. Whenever Dan buys something now he is not excited about it and he is not looking forward to it, generally speaking he doesn’t want to spend the money whereas even not that long ago he was always fairly excited to get a new thing. John thinks that we have arrived at a place where there is no killer app for everything. The Internet has matured, we have two generations that have grown up with it, this is it, it has arrived. Looking at Meta and virtual reality conferencing and Elon Musk owning Twitter and the war in Ukraine and all of the drone footage, the only thing John is excited about is the drone footage!

Back in 1980 John dreamed of Genie and he could already then imagine a rocket-firing drone that he was looking at through a little TV screen on his remote, he was excited about backpack drone warfare so long ago and now it has arrived and it is even shoddier than he imagined it would be, but it is still great, he is not complaining, and there is no other thing about the Internet that is interesting. We are all used to it, it does what it does. We go on it.

The excitement of buying a new laptop was always connected to: ”Now I can finally make movies!” or: ”Now I can finally get Logic Pro and this is going to be the moment when I make my thing!”, ”I can finally get that new program that requires the new hot thing!”, but there is nothing like that now. All a new computer would do is get you into this sad, sun-baked environment with something slightly faster? When was the last time there was a killer app that you were excited about?

Dan doesn’t care about anything right now. He is in this whole podcasting industry thing, and there all these amazing apps coming out, like this one allows you to do lightning payment so that if you are listening to a show and the person made you laugh on the show and you decided right after they made you laugh that you love them and you wanted to toss them $10, and you could just hit a button and: Boom! $10!” Dan knows a lot of podcasters, but he doesn’t know anybody who is either using this service as a listener or is receiving money this way. ”John made me laugh, I will give him $2, I bought him a coffee!”

It feels like you are in a hospital bed and you have a morphine drip and you have a little button and you are giving morphine to yourself when you are giving somebody a dollar every time they make you laugh. That feels like an app that is designed a) by a committee in a room, and b) of people who have never lived in the world, and that is a generation for whom it was always possible to become a billionaire simply by accidentally building a tool that stands in between this person and that person as they conduct their business.

John lurking on Twitter again (RW253)

John is embarrassed to say that he has been lurking on Twitter a lot. A friend sent him links to interesting tweets by Ukraine scholars and army people, and he started sneaking on there to see these tweets. People are doing 40 tweet long threads full of information. Each one has a link to other tweets and threads and videos and John is getting so much information out of them. He didn’t really remember, nor did he particularly care about the war in Chechnya, but he knows a lot about it now, and he is very engaged and curious, and it is activating that part of his brain that likes this kind of thing, not the killing, of course, but the statecraft and the history and all this.

Immediately you are on Twitter, it is his place, his little Twitter world, he still has 40,000 followers there, and he is following all these people that he used to know, a lot of them he is estranged from. One of the first things he did was stopped following most of his old friends and started following all these Ukraine accounts, meaning his Twitter is a very different world now, but Twitter itself will not accept this. Every third tweet is an ad now, and the ads are tailored so that one in five times you almost click on it because you think: ”Interesting! Randelman Rowe cartoons!” (?), but it is only somebody that looks like that.

John is on there for Ukraine stuff and then there are some people that he didn't unfollow that are old friends and all of a sudden he is lurking and he is reading about Will Smith and his marriage to Jada Pinkett Smith and how a lot of black comedians feel that she doesn't love him and the reason that he is freaking out and misbehaving is that he is in an abusive relationship. As he reads these things he goes: ”That explains a lot! Will Smith is in an abusive relationship!” and then he remembers that he doesn't care at all about Will Smith, what kind of relationship he has, or what anyone else thinks about it.

But John is back in so fast to that and to the feeling as he walks around: ”I should go check in and see what is waiting for me there!” John knows about Elon Musk and about what he is doing, but he doesn’t want anything to do with him. He is on the board and he is doing all these things and memes. Every person that John knows that is still on Twitter at least once a day makes a joke about how miserable they are on Twitter. It is always the same joke: ”Oh my God, can I quit this yet? Maybe this is the final straw? <link to some dumb thing>”, ”Maybe this is it. Maybe this will be the thing! Can we agree that it is all over <link to some sad thing>”

People getting rich without really doing anything, companies not yet knowing what their product is (RW253)

It was always possible for anybody under the age of 30-35 to get rich, not because they built a factory and not because they designed a new carburetor, but just because they either did Angry Birds that was worth $1 billion or some other thing. There was the kid that spray-painted the wall at the office at Facebook and they paid him in stock instead of money and he is worth $200 million or something and he doesn't want to talk about it. Everybody wants to interview this guy.

If you grew up thinking that it was normal and that maybe you even knew somebody. Dan knew a bunch of people in the early days that ended up being billionaires or 100+ millionaires, he hates them all now, but how much have they actually built versus how much did they just have an idea that was in its moment? John has zero idea how much work Jack Dorsey did. Was he a genius or were there just a bunch of guys sitting around like: ”I know! Here is one!”

John can't look back to 1901 and say for sure that there weren't a whole bunch of people in 1901 that became rich just because of some dumb thing, but it seems more like an industrial process. You had to actually make something to sell, and that was hard and it required that you hire people and whatnot. Obviously Jack Dorsey hired some people that did computer maths, which shouldn't even really require a High School degree, but Jack Dorsey now walks around in a Monk's robe, but it is also a hoodie, weirdly not cool. He might have a house on Lake Cuomo and be up there throwing disco, but John doesn’t get that feeling from any of those guys. All those guys in 1901 built gigantic houses in Connecticut, which seems even dumber than living in Palo Alto.

What Dan is describing, hey, the next wave in podcasting is that we set up this thing where everybody can send you $10 when you stroke them with your show, and that that is what people are looking for, is just being built by people that don't have any real idea of what money is or what the world is. That is not solving a problem! Nobody wants it! And yet they will get funding, and then they are worth $100 million briefly before they become just another one of the 50 startups this morning that went through two rounds of funding and then never could make a product.

John’s daughter's mother has been doing a lot of job interviews lately, and she has these comments like: ”Yeah, I interviewed with them, I went through five rounds of interviews, and the CEO this and the founder led that and this, that and the other, but I really couldn't tell you what they made! If they offered me a job, I don't think I am going to take a job offer from them because I couldn't really tell you what the product was. I feel like they are looking for a product!” The businesses have got lots of people working there, they just haven't figured out what they sell or do yet.

John crossing a line where he is no longer connected to things (RW253)

John feels like he is going across a line right now. He is on a ship… In the old days when you would cross the equator they would throw a celebration for you or you would get a certificate. John still has a certificate he got in the 1970s for flying over the North Pole. He was on some airplane and it was like: ”You went over the North Pole!” and everybody got a certificate. It was really fun! They looked out the window and it was like: ”The North Pole!” It really did feel like you were at the North Pole.

Right now John is on a ship and he is crossing some date line or some Tropic of Capricorn where he may be on the other side of it, and he is just going to sound less and less connected to things and feel less and less connected to things, but he doesn't know what to feel about it.

John feels like he is crossing a line in the ocean where if it ever actually becomes okay for him to do nothing, if he ever really reads a thread like that and finally feels like: ”Oh, doing nothing has been the point the whole time! It is a wonderful way to live out your day!”

You go to some tropical place or subtropical place, you sit, look out, you go to Margaritaville in Florida, you buy a two bedroom, you get a golf cart. John definitely feels like whatever the next twist is he may miss the turn and he doesn’t know whether he missed the turn and goes off the cliff into the Pacific Ocean, or whether he missed the turn and keeps driving into the desert.

Popular culture and everybody else and all the excitement goes on some next wild ride, some VR headset driven super future where you can send a person a dollar every time they make you laugh and John is just headed out onto the beach on a golf cart, not even conscious of having missed the turn, looking back at the lights of Las Vegas, but just going on until his battery runs out.

Anthropologists finding that pre-industrial tribes mostly did nothing (RW253)

The other day John was lurking on Twitter, following Ukraine, Ukraine, Ukraine, and you bounce off the bottom of it, you have watched all the videos, you have read all the threads of people arguing with each other from their living rooms in Pennsylvania about what Ukraine should do and all the atrocity and all of what America should have done, maybe it did do, maybe it is doing, maybe it is not, maybe a year from now, and suddenly John was on a different thread of an Indian guy, Southeast Asian, who is an anthropologist and he says that in the 1960s and 1970s anthropologists went out and lived with Aboriginal people for a year and just sat there by the campfire with them, living with them, trying to integrate into their culture, but also monitoring them and recording what they did.

This became very unfashionable, the whole concept of a Western person going and living with a pre-technological tribe and doing this ”I am just going to write down every time you pick up a coconut!” because it is condescending and it is colonialist et cetera, but this anthropologist said there is this incredible data compiled by all these anthropologists that no-one has ever really dug into because it was a lot of data to interpret at the time and then it became very unfashionable and there is a cadre of people in the University-world that would say: ”We don't go look at Mengele's data either!”, although this is completely not equivalent to that. That is just the level of discourse in today's world.

This anthropologist said he was digging into the data and one of the most fascinating data points is that universally across anthropologists living in Central Africa, in Indonesia, in South America, everywhere you could find pre-industrial people, the thing that United people around the world and that constituted the largest chunk of their time was doing nothing, not doing anything, just crouching and looking out, not even whittling or poking at a fire with a stick, but just sitting and staring into the middle distance.

It goes against what you would think a subsistence lifestyle would require. You wake up every morning and everything you are doing is struggling to survive all day, but in fact the work that it took to survive was a manageable amount of work, you had to hunt for a while, you had to fix the ropes, you had to dig up a thing over here, repair the roof, and then all of it seemed to be in service of this 40% of your day that you just sat and looked out, probably in your mind's eye. Just sitting and thinking, but not trying to solve a problem. Who knows what! Who knows what any of us do?

This anthropologist was in the process of suggesting that we have of course eliminated doing nothing almost completely from our lives because we don't ever do nothing. We are always doing something: reading, surfing, doom-scrolling, puttering. Does Dan ever sit in a chair and just stare at the wall? If he is tired, which is most of the time, then he will definitely do this. When his kids were little, especially his son would say: ”Dad, let's play a game!” - ”I would like to play my most favorite game!” - ”Do you mean sitting in a chair staring at the wall?” - ”Yes, and the way you win is whoever can do it the longest!” and he never won, he would just leave or annoy Dan until he stopped. But now Dan can lay on the sofa, staring at the ceiling.

He can't fall asleep easily anyway, and he is not going to fall asleep doing that. He never slept in a vehicle, never slept on a plane, never slept in a public space, never fallen asleep in a class, as hard as he has tried. He can't even barely fall asleep if he is exhausted in a perfect bed in a perfect situation. He hasn’t napped since he was about two. His mom would come in the room and he would be standing in his crib looking around, so he was definitely standing looking around back then too. But there is something nice about that. You don't even have to think. You just let go and you are not thinking about anything really.

It is a major part of John’s day and always has been. He used to joke that he would sit and look at a wall and then he would realize that the shadows had completely changed in the room as the sun arcs across the sky and he wouldn't be conscious of watching the light change as the day progressed, but he would notice it when he came back. ”Oh, look at that! Time has really passed!” and the suggestion that John took from this Twitter thread that he read out of one eye while at the same time telling himself: ”This is crack! You need to stop being on this! This is bad! You already feel when you are not on Twitter that you want to be back there!”, even though John has unfollowed and eliminated all the friends, so he is not on there looking at what he used to, which is: ”What are my friends doing? What do they say about Will Smith's relationship?” That is all gone and it is now back to a news place, just getting popular press.

If you go onto Google News, which is a thing, it is the same as CNN Headline News was in 1986: Here is the story that is at the top of the news, and it is the same as it was yesterday, and then down here there is a bunch of garbage, but it is so slow and so dumb. On Twitter you can follow these threads from a guy who has been studying the Russian Empire for 30 years and has written 17 books and for some reason he is giving away all of his knowledge for free and is with such enthusiasm designing these threads that all told he is writing a thesis every three days. It is just there!

There is a group of us who have collectively decided that Twitter is still… John used to feel this way and he would put so much creative work into that place because he felt like he was sharing it with his fellow man and that was Noble and it validated him, but he was also making an important contribution to the log cabin of human endeavor. That is what you feel about some of these Ukraine threads. ”You should be awarded a Pulitzer Prize for the work you are doing here and I don't know why you are doing it. You are getting more followers!”

John remembers what getting more followers felt like, and it is not the same as getting a good job. This doing nothing thing has always been very hard for him to accept that it was legitimate. He does it, it feels always like a guilty pleasure, he is always pushing against the other voice that says: ”What are you doing right now? Shouldn't you be doing something? This is why we can't have nice things! This is why you never went to Yale! Look at you now! You are just sitting and staring!”

He has always had the simultaneous knowledge that sitting and thinking is important and good. It is where you reset. It is why we are creative. He has always known that because some child psychologist said that to his parents when they were like: ”He just sits in stairs!” In 1978 some child psychologist that looked like Jeff Bridges said: ”It is important that the child be able to look at the wall!” Psychology is whatever you want it to be. Just like Punk Rock!


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